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The Receptionist

What it was like to work at the New Yorker.

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The Receptionist:
An Education at The New Yorker
Algonquin Books
320 pp.

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By Daniel Asa Rose, for The Barnes and Noble Review

Yippie! we think, cracking open the pages of The Receptionist  – here comes another tell-all about The New Yorker magazine, written most likely with well-calibrated degrees of upper-middle-class decorum by some luminary like Brendan Gill ( "Here at The New Yorker," 1997) or E. J. Kahn, Jr. ("About The New Yorker and Me," 1979) regaling us with uproarious indiscretions and backstage gossip of the highest order.

Well, not quite. For one thing, the author is not one of the magazine's swashbuckling superstars but a lowly worker bee, someone who began as a receptionist on the eighteenth floor in 1957 and never rose a notch higher by retirement time 21 years later. Also, she's a she – of the distinctly diffident kind they seem to have stamped out in the '40s and '50s. It's less a tell-all about the magazine than about her personal plight there, starting with a surprise phone call from a mutual acquaintance of E. B. White that glided her through the gilded gates. (As any reader of the aforementioned books can attest, cronyism and outright nepotism used to be near-sacred traditions at The New Yorker.)

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